1.3 Wildlife issues associated with land-clearing
Aside from the long-term ecological consequences of such a massive loss of wildlife, there are serious animal welfare issues associated with the methods used in the clearing of vegetation while animals are present. Although some animals may be killed instantaneously, it is likely that a much larger proportion suffer painful, distressing or prolonged deaths. Furthermore, displaced animals that survive the process of clearing may be subject to increased exposure to accidents, motor vehicle trauma, starvation or attack by other animals or predators.
1.3.1 Animal injuries associated with land-clearing
Animals injured directly in the process of vegetation clearing generally suffer from major crushing or fall related injuries. Arboreal species may suffer from trauma associated with falling from a tree and/or crushing and injuries associated with branches and limbs falling on or beside them. Such injuries include severe internal bleeding and organ disruption, multiple bone breaks, eye and head injuries. Animals resting in tree cavities, similarly, may receive crushing injuries if the hollow trunk disintegrates, or suffer internal organ injuries and tearing as a result of falling.
Ground dwelling animals, such as turtles, snakes and lizards most commonly suffer from crushing and tearing injuries (such as traumatic limb amputation), or may be buried alive during earthworks.
Highly mobile species such as birds and most mammals may avoid direct injury by machinery, but may suffer injuries by running into fences, motor vehicle strike or other accidents.
Injuries suffered by animals during land-clearing vary from mild to severe and fatal, but these animals are only rarely presented to wildlife rehabilitators. This is primarily because they are less likely to be discovered by members of the community and are more usually buried or confined in piles of debris during the process of clearing, which are then subsequently burned, chipped or deposited in a landfill.
1.3.2 Accident and starvation associated with land-clearing
Animals that survive the process of land-clearing may succumb later to starvation, predation, territorial aggression, accident (such as drowning in swimming pools, entanglement in fences, and the like), domestic animal attack, motor vehicle strike and failure to adapt to new habitats. A small proportion of animals may disperse to adjacent habitats with little ill-effect, but, contrary to popular belief, the proportion of animals successfully doing this is likely to be small. Wildlife species that are forced from their natural habitat must compete for food and shelter and may become more susceptible to